Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, a French businesswoman, philanthropist, and the Vice Chairman of L'Oréal, has become a prominent figure on the global stage. Born on July 10, 1953, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, she is more than just the heiress to a cosmetic empire; she is the richest woman in the world, with an estimated net worth of $87.4 billion , according to Forbes.
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers' remarkable journey is intertwined with the legacy of L'Oréal, a global beauty and cosmetics giant founded by her grandfather, Eugène Schueller. Her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, inherited both her father's fortune and control of the company upon his death in 1957. Liliane Bettencourt was a well-known figure in France, partly due to her glamorous socialite lifestyle and high-profile parties.
Despite her family's social standing, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers chose a different path. She was less interested in the glitzy world of her parents and more focused on her passions, which included playing the piano and reading. Her mother once described her as "heavy and slow" and "always one lap behind me." This difference in temperament would eventually lead to a strained relationship between mother and daughter.
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers and her mother, Liliane, had a complex and, at times, contentious relationship. Liliane often referred to her daughter as "a cold child." The tensions between them date back to Françoise's teenage years. Despite the wealth and privilege that surrounded her, Françoise remained steadfast in her pursuit of personal interests and her role as a dedicated mother.
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers' personal life also came under public scrutiny when she married Jean-Pierre Meyers, the grandson of a rabbi who tragically perished at Auschwitz during World War II. Her conversion to Judaism and the upbringing of their children, Jean-Victor and Nicolas, as Jewish created a unique family dynamic.
The Bettencourt family's involvement in controversies extended beyond their personal lives. In 2008, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers sued François-Marie Banier for accepting money from her mother, Liliane. This legal battle, along with proceedings to have Liliane declared mentally incompetent, led to the Woerth-Bettencourt scandal, which attracted international attention.
Despite these controversies, the family continued to maintain a significant stake in L'Oréal, owning 33% of the company. The family's connection to L'Oréal remained a crucial element of their wealth.
The passing of Liliane Bettencourt in September 2017 marked a significant transition. Her net worth at the time was estimated at approximately $39.5 billion, making Françoise Bettencourt Meyers one of the top 20 richest individuals globally.
Continuing the family tradition of philanthropy, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers and L'Oréal pledged a substantial $226 million to repair the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral after a devastating fire.
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers' story is not merely one of immense wealth but also one of individualism and resilience. She chose a path distinct from her family's societal role, opting for a life enriched by her personal interests and a commitment to her family.
As the Vice Chairman of L'Oréal, she continues to play a significant role in the company that has been at the centre of her family's legacy for generations. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers' journey is a testament to her strength and determination in navigating the complexities of wealth, family, and personal values while embracing her role as the richest woman in the world.